Inc initially broke the news Cole’s contract would be expiring SummerSlam weekend. Fightful clarified that the NXT Triple Crown champion’s deal actually ended in early July, but Cole agreed to work through TakeOver 36 and evaluate the situation after that.
The second report also said WWE higher-ups were surprised to learn Cole’s contract was up last month, and they only learned the deal was up shortly before the expiration date.
Cole came to WWE in 2017 after a successful career on the independents which included three ROH World title reigns. He debuted by attacking then-NXT champ Drew McIntyre at TakeOver: Brooklyn III. He’s been a fixture atop the black-and-gold brand ever since.
Speculation about what he could do if he opts to leave WWE obviously centers around AEW. In addition to Tony Khan’s company being the premiere landing spot for top free agents these days, Cole has several ties to the AEW roster, most notably his long-time girlfriend, Women’s champion Britt Baker.
It currently looks like Cole will face frequent ally & rival Kyle O’Reilly at Aug. 22’s TakeOver 36 to wrap-up their latest feud. It’s not clear what remains for him to accomplish in NXT, and it would be understandable if the cruiserweight-sized wrestler had concerns about how he would be handled on Raw or SmackDown, even with his extra-large charisma.